One day last summer as I was driving somewhere, it dawned on me where my obsession with American Girl dolls comes from. It all goes back to a doll I had from my childhood. I always thought she was a Velvet doll, but I’ve since found out otherwise. Keep reading.
If you aren’t familiar with Crissy and Velvet, I’ll enlighten you. Made by Ideal, Crissy was introduced in 1969. She had flaming red hair with a unique twist to it–you could make it “grow”. And thanks to a knob on her back, you could make it short again. Push the button on her stomach and pull–long again! It was really a pretty clever idea and interestingly enough, not an original one. Ideal had acquired a closed company called American Character Doll Company who had originated the idea with their Tressy and Cricket dolls. Crissy was 18 inches tall.
A friend of mine had one of the first Crissy dolls which was pretty cool because like Crissy, she had red hair. I thought Crissy was cute, but I didn’t really want her. My mom apparently thought she was cool too, and the following Christmas, I got one. Mine came in a teal satin type dress with matching shoes. I did play with her, but I wasn’t in love with her.
The following Christmas my mom decided to get me another doll in the line. This is where some confusion began that I’ve just recently cleared up. Velvet was introduced and was designed to be Crissy’s little cousin. At only 15 inches tall she was the perfect size for a girl my age (I would have been 7 at the time). She also had the “growing” hair mechanism. Until last summer, I thought I had a brunette Velvet doll. My doll came in exactly the same outfit as the Velvet doll (a purple velvet dress), adding to more confusion. After doing some research, I’ve discovered that I didn’t have a white brunette Velvet, but a Mia doll! (there was a black/African American Velvet version that had dark hair.) Mia was supposed to be one of Velvet’s friends. Velvet was only ever available as a blonde in the Caucasian version. I suspect that the reason for the confusion with the outfit is that she may have been a catalog exclusive through either Sears, JCPenney or Montgomery Wards, my mom was a huge catalog shopper and frequently bought more unusual dolls when she could. The outfit shown on most photos of Mia dolls that I came across in doing research, I’d never seen before!
I can say in all honesty that she was probably my favorite doll of that era. Velvet/Mia (I called her Velvet, hey, I was 7 and didn’t know the difference!) went a lot of places with me, and I played with her quite a bit. I have a distinct memory of my 8th birthday involving her. Right around lunchtime, a woman showed up at our house who had made doll clothing that fit these dolls, and I picked out a couple of outfits that my mom bought me as part of my birthday present. I only remember one of these outfits now, a little pair of white flannel pj’s, trimmed in pink. I also remember dressing up Velvet/Mia in one of the new outfits and she went out to dinner with us, my parents had arranged for all of us to go out to celebrate with friends of theirs, I can still picture her sitting in a chair by herself beside me.
Poor Velvet/Mia though, she didn’t know she was about to be jilted. Big time. I discovered Barbie, and it was all over. I did keep Velvet/Mia for a long time, but she didn’t get played with all that much. I mean, seriously, how can you compete with someone who has a Dream House, a swimming pool, a camper and her own airplane???? Eventually I donated her to charity, and hopefully some little girl loved her as much as I did. At least until she discovered Barbie too.
Ideal continued to make Crissy and her friends for several years, and in several different styles: Movin’ Groovin’ Crissy, Talky Crissy, Look Around Crissy and even a Baby Crissy (just to name a few). They also introduced a number of different friends. I’m not exactly sure when Crissy and her gang were phased out, but Ideal Toys went defunct in 1997.
I do have fond memories of her, and on that day last summer, I realized just how similar she was to American Girl in terms of size and idea of a little girl/young girl doll. Not an infant, not a fashion model, but a young girl. With the dark haired version I had, she resembled Samantha and Molly quite a bit, just with blue eyes. Suddenly everything made sense: I’m just reliving my childhood with these dolls! Maybe someday I’ll buy a dark haired, blue eyed American Girl doll and I can name her Velvet. Or Mia. Oh, never mind!!!
Here’s a commercial showing the same Crissy doll I had and a Velvet doll:
I have to thank Velvet/Mia for one thing: because of my trying to figure out who I had, I became friends with Sharry at Julie Newman’s 70’s Time Capsule. I noticed her Crissy, Velvet and Kerry dolls (Kerry was another doll in the line) on her website, sent her an e-mail asking for info, and the rest as they say “is history!”